I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.”
During the reign of Elizabeth I, Catholics were widely persecuted, with Masses banned and priests executed. Many hoped that this reign of terror would end when James I took the throne in 1603, but when it didn’t, a group of young men decided to take violent action against the Monarchy and Government.
The group of thirteen men, led by Robert Catesby, plotted to blow up the Houses of Parliament when the King visited on 5th November. They placed 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars beneath the parliament, with the intention to ignite them and blow up the building above.
During the planning, the group realised that some innocent people (including those who had been fighting to increase the rights of Catholics) could be harmed. Whilst some members felt this was a risk worth taking, others started having second thoughts. It is even alleged that one member of the group sent a letter to Lord Monteagle, warning him to stay away from Parliament on 5th November 1605.
In the early hours of the 5th November 1605, the authorities stormed the cellar and captured a number of the conspirators, including Guy Fawkes. Although Robert Catesby was the ringleader of the group, as Guy Fawkes was captured alone and became the name associated with the plot, which is why we now celebrate November 5th as Guy Fawkes Day.
How do we celebrate?
Traditionally, the British people celebrate this day by building bonfires and burning a straw effigy of Guy Fawkes on the fire. Children would carry the ‘Guy’ through their village, asking “penny for the Guy”, and then spent the money on sweets and sparklers. Although this is not as commonly practised now, many people still hold bonfires, play with sparklers, and let off fireworks. As November 5th falls differently each year, different communities celebrate at different times throughout the week around the 5th November.
If you are celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, be sure to be safe – only let adults handle fireworks, and show a lot of care when playing with sparklers. Remember to have fun with your family and friends!!
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